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Title: The effect of pregnancy and childbirth on sexual behaviour
Author: Whitlow, David H. G.
ISNI:       0000 0001 3567 4759
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 1980
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In recent years knowledge about sexual behaviour and the treatment of sexual dysfunction has increased considerably. Previous studies have not indicated a standard pattern of change in sexual behaviour during pregnancy. Samples have differed considerably and most larger studies have been retrospective. Similar problems were noted in the review of studies of postpartum sexual behaviour. Many studies involved small numbers of subjects and follow-up rarely exceeded three months. Both positive and negative changes in sexual adjustment have been reported following childbirth and a variety of attitudinal, physical, emotional, social and environmental factors have been implicated. The aims of this study were to investigate the patterns of change in sexual behaviour which occur during pregnancy, the frequency of changes in sexual adjustment following pregnancy, and the factors responsible for these changes. Information on sexual behaviour and other variables was obtained from 101 women during pregnancy, in the immediate postpartum period, and at follow-up 9-12 months after the birth. Improvements in sexual functioning during pregnancy were rarely reported. Roughly one-third of subjects showed a reduction in the frequency of sexual activity and sexual interest, while almost two-thirds showed a reduction in sexual enjoyment. Most deterioration was reported in the first trimester and there was generally a subsequent improvement though not to pre-pregnancy levels. Subjects with high levels of sexual adjustment before pregnancy were less likely to experience a deterioration in sexual functioning during pregnancy. Objective questionnaire results indicated a general reduction in sexual activity and lower levels of sexual adjustment in the postpartum period compared with before pregnancy. Subjective reports indicated that roughly 40% of women felt that there had been no change in the frequency of their sexual activity compared with before pregnancy, while 25% felt that there had been some deterioration, and a further 22% felt that there had been a marked deterioration. Only 13% of subjects felt that the frequency of their sexual activity had increased. Similar results were obtained for sexual interest and sexual satisfaction. Women with relatively higher levels of sexual adjustment before pregnancy were more likely to experience a deterioration in sexual adjustment postpartum. Some of the factors associated with deterioration in sexual adjustment were unplanned pregnancy, dyspareunia, Caesarian section delivery, anxiety generated by medical investigations, depression, time spent breast feeding and concern about postpartum contraception. Suggestions have been made for improved monitoring during pregnancy and the puerperium, and the development of advisory and counselling services. Recommendations have also been made for further research in this field.
Supervisor: Not available Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: Psychology